Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Dying for Both Sides

Read Galatians 2

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Pray that I will be rescued from those in Judea who refuse to obey God. Pray also that the believers there will be willing to accept the donation I am taking to Jerusalem.” (Romans 15:31)

saint-paul-the-apostle-07In the Bible, there is a man named Saul who was born in the city of Tarsus in the Roman province of Cilicia. He was well educated and rose up to be a scholar of the Torah, a Pharisee, and a zealous defender of the Jewish faith. When a new sect of Judaism broke out claiming that a Nazarene rabbi by the name of Yeshua bar Joseph was the messiah and that Gentiles should be included in the Jewish covenant, he lashed out against the group, having many of them arrested. According to Acts, one was even killed.

With that said, this Saul encountered the risen Yeshua, you may know him by his Greek name Jesus, somewhere in or around Damascus, which is a city in Syria. This experience transformed Saul into a follower of Jesus. Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians that, following the encounter with Christ, he went into Arabia for a while and then came back to Damascus. After three years he went to Jerusalem and met with Jesus’ brother James, and his disciples Peter and John.

To make a long story short, Jesus’ brother James and Paul didn’t really get along…at all. Peter and John weren’t too crazy about Paul either. James believed that in order for Gentiles (non-Jews) to become a follower of Christ they had to first become Jewish, since Jesus was a Jew. Paul thought this was ludicrous, seeing Jesus’ death and resurrection as the opening up of the covenant to Gentiles. If they had faith in Jesus who was likened to a Gentile on the cross (being under God’s curse as the Torah claims of anyone hung on a tree), then they would be brought into the Jewish covenant despite not being circumcised or being bound to any one of the Jewish laws.

Though they struck a deal and Paul left thinking he had their blessing to go and preach the Gospel as he felt Jesus had called him to do, James, Peter and John never really accepted Paul’s vision. We find out from Paul in his letter to the Galatians, and in Acts, that James and his followers were counteracting Paul’s Gospel message and causing people to question this “self-proclaimed apostle” who had never been an eye-witness of Jesus. This angered Paul, as anyone would imagine, but it did not stop him from trying.

Paul had been gathering up a collection for the church in Jerusalem and he was going to bring that collection to them, hoping to reconcile their differences if it cost him his very life. Paul was afraid it would. His last written words, written to the church in Rome (a community he had never met), ask for prayers that the non-believing Jews won’t attack him (as he was a heretic in their eyes having abandoned his Pharisaic Judaism for this new messianic Judaism) and that the church in Jerusalem would accept his offering. Unfortunately, his prayers were not answered.

Paul was arrested, and eventually died, trying to get both sides (his and James’) to be unified, even if different, in the cause of Christ. Today, like then, the church is split on many fronts and we seem to get stuck on one side or the other. We fail to see Christ in the midst of our differences. Like Paul, we are called to see Christ in those who believe differently than us. We are called to find the balance of reconciliation, even while remaining true to what we firmly believe. There are many contentious issues dividing the church, yet there is still ONE Lord! Rather than deeming each other heretics, let us have the grace and the humility to see that Christ is indeed working in, through, and in spite of us all! Remember, he Gospel calls us to be a people who are unified in LOVE, even if divided by difference.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“You don’t get unity by ignoring the questions that have to be faced.” – Jay Weatherill

PRAYER

Lord, help me to see you even in those who think and believe differently than me. Humble me, I pray. Amen.

The Walking Dead

Read Acts 2:1-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.” (Matthew 23:27)

WalkingDeadOne of my favorite TV shows as of late is called “The Walking Dead.” I’m kind of a late comer to this show, as I am to all shows, and have been catching up on the three seasons that are available on Netflix. At some point, the fourth season will be out and I will catch up on that too, hopefully in time to catch the fifth season as it airs on TV. Needless to say, I am hooked on the show and for good reason.

The Walking Dead is a series that is about the zombie apocalypse. For those of you who are not already aware, zombies are en vogue in today’s society. It used to be that when we talked about the apocalypse, we discussed seven headed beasts, “the antichrist”, or even nuclear warfare. We may have even thought of machines we originally designed to kill our enemies turning against humanity in general and altering their mission to “terminate” all of human kind. Nowadays, when the word apocalypse is talked of people think of the living dead wandering the earth in search of human flesh to feast on. Mmmmm. I apologize if you are reading this while eating.

In the series, a group of survivors make their way place to place trying to avoid contact with the walking dead in order to not get bitten and turned into the walking dead themselves. As it turns out, the walking dead are in the state they are because of a virus that reanimated them into walking corpses. The kicker is that living humans are actually carrying this virus and, when they die, they too will become walking corpses. Pleasant, right?

What I love about the show is that, though on the surface it is dealing with zombies, it really is a metaphor for our world and society today. When we turn on the news we can see lots of instances of “the walking dead.” From our government, to crazed individuals, there are lots of people and institutions that just seem to have lost their way. They were created and/or designed for a specific purpose…but that purpose is dead to them and they are just wandering mindlessly preying and feasting upon others. What’s more disturbing is that, most people, are not fighting against such a state of being as much as they are fighting to maintain their status quo…only to become “the walking dead” themselves.

In this season of Pentecost, we think of the Holy Spirit filling the disciples with new life and a sense of purpose. We hear of the fire that was kindled within them that raged out of control and spread to 3,000 people on that day, which then turned to tens of thousands, millions and eventually billions of people. The church was God’s antidote to the virus that creates the “walking dead.” Yet, from time to time the virus seems to creep into the life of the church as well. Every so often, the Holy Spirit raises up a leader such as Paul, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Mother Theresa, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., etc. to go against the status quo and act as an antidote to the virus that is consuming us.

The Holy Spirit is calling you to be an antidote to the Walking Dead virus in the church. The Holy Spirit is calling you to stand up against the injustices, oppression and bonds that the world, including the Church, put upon people. Are you going to be among the countless zombies lurking around in the shadows looking for people to mindlessly feast on, or are you going to be filled with the TRUE LIFE of the spirit and become an agent of God’s Hope, Healing, and Wholeness. Christ is calling us to be in a deeper relationship with him so that, instead of reanimation, we find RESURRECTION and LIFE! Rise up with Jesus, be filled by the Holy Spirit and become an ANTIDOTE that brings life and resurrection to the LOST and NEGLECTED!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“What is my task? First of all, my task is to be pleasing to Christ. To be empty of self and be filled with Himself. To be filled with the Holy Spirit; to be led by the Holy Spirit.” – Aimee Semple McPherson

PRAYER
Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit so that I may be guided into serving others and bringing them your Hope, Healing and Wholeness. Amen.

Jesus Is For Real

Read Matthew 13:23-58

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
But [Jesus] said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” (Luke 4:43)

heaven-is-for-realThis past Thursday, my wife, children and I went to the theater to see yet another faith-based film. It seems that 2014 is the year of faith-based films and, so long as they keep making them, my family and I will keep supporting them. The one we just saw was a film entitled, “Heaven Is For Real”, which is based on the bestselling book of the same name. The film chronicles a Wesleyan pastor, Rev. Todd Burpo, and his family through a tumultuous time.

According to the story, Todd’s son Colton ended up getting sick on a family trip to Denver. After bringing him home, his condition did not improve but got worse. It turned out that his appendix had ruptured and, close to death, Colton needed emergency surgery. During that surgery, he left his body and was able to see both his parents who were in separate places: his mom on the phone with family and his dad, who was in the chapel angrily praying and yelling at God.

Beyond that experience, Colton also experienced going to heaven where he met angels who sang to him and Jesus who came to him on a horse of many colors. Everyone in heaven, according to Colton, were young. While there he met his great-grandfather who he had never met in life, and he also met his unborn, older sister. At four years old, his son had never known his mom had a miscarriage and, to his mother’s surprise, he was suddenly aware that he had another “sister” who lived in heaven.

While the story is very moving, it is easy for us to get skeptical of such books and such accounts. Theologically speaking, when Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven was he really referring to another place where he would be riding a rainbow colored horse? Was he referring to a place where we all look like we did when we were in our early twenties? Some have criticized the book for presenting an “extra-Biblical” picture of what heaven is. From a scientific perspective, how do we know that Colton wasn’t just imagining Jesus out of things he had seen and/or heard at home or at church. His father, after all, is the pastor of a Wesleyan Church. Secular critics have criticized the book for it’s lack of “reason.”

I must confess that I have never read the book, but when watching the film the details of the boy’s personal experiences of heaven became secondary to the overall point of the film. Pastor Burpo, in one scene, stands before his congregation asks, “If we truly believed that heaven is for real, how differently would be be living our lives?” That is a profoundly good and important question to ask. If we truly believe in heaven, if we truly see that heaven is FOR REAL, if we truly understood that heaven can be brought here on earth and that we are called to be a part of ushering it in, we will be living our lives differently.

I believe that the personal and, by nature, subjective experiences of a four year old boy cannot be proven or disproven. To be skeptical and critical of the fine details of his experience is to miss the bigger point that not only is heaven for real, but THE RISEN JESUS IS FOR REAL and he is calling to us in different ways. For some it is in a near death experience, for others it is in a Scripture verse we accidentally stumble upon. Still others witness the risen Christ in a person they are helping or in someone who is helping them. There are some who have visions and dreams that lead them to the RISEN CHRIST who is calling them into a deeper commitment. No matter how Christ is experienced…the fact remains that HE IS EXPERIENCED and he is calling us to be agents of his kingdom…the very real Kingdom of Heaven…so that the world may come to be as God first intended it to be: A WORLD OF TRUE LIFE AND LASTING PEACE. Experience that Jesus is for real, that heaven is for real, and that your call, no matter what it is or where it leads you, is for real.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 18:3, NRSV).

PRAYER
Lord, open my eyes that I may see and experience you. Change my heart that I may eagerly follow you. Amen.

Reading the Signs

Read Matthew 16:1-4

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” (Luke 17:20-21)

bobcats-12Well, we are certainly in the midst of a cold and snowy winter. The temperatures have been in the single digits and, in some cases, the temperatures has been subzero. Certainly that was the case the other day, with wind chill making matters worse. Just a minute or two outdoors and my ears and nose were ready to fall right off!

As much as I do not enjoy extreme temperatures, and as much as I semi-jokingly carry on about my dislike for the winter months, I cannot say I was not prepared for this harsh winter. In fact, I pretty much knew in advance that this winter was going to be a rough one, not because I am a soothsayer or some kind of super psychic, but because I saw the signs that were right in front of me.

Well, at least the signs were right in front of me on my youngest daughter’s class trip to Lakota Wolf Preserve in Blairstown, NJ. It was at this preserve that I met a couple of elegant and graceful bobcats! Aside from them being absolutely adorable, they also had weather prediction built naturally into their fur.

As it turns out, when ever a cold and harsh winter is approaching, their fur turns from brown to silvery white. And when ever a mild winter is approaching, their fur doesn’t change colors at all! Well, when I met these furry rascals their fur was already turning silver. Once that was pointed out to me by the tour guide, my heart sunk. Nature is ALWAYS right. I knew we were going to have a rough winter ahead of us!

Jesus calls his disciples to be observant of the signs surrounding us. He told his disciples to observe the signs of the times in order to be prepared for the things that are to come. He didn’t tell his disciples when and where these things would happen, but that the signs would be there for us to observe. With that said, Jesus also said to not get too caught up in the signs or in looking for them.

Many Christians have not heeded Jesus’ instruction to be observant of the signs and, as a result, they have missed out on the very presence of Christ, and the opportunities to bear that presence, in those moments. On the other hand, other Christians are overly observant, finding signs, and the end of the world, in everything they see. Jesus warns us against both scenarios.

Today’s challenge is for us to be observant, to be present, and to keep it real. Let us not be among the complacent who are caught unaware by the presence of God. Let us not be complacent and miss the presence of the Lord in the faces of those we ignore and pass by.  Let us also not be overzealous in seeking out signs at every turn. No one needs another blowhard predicting the unpredictable. Remember that the signs will show themselves to us and, when they do, we will be prepared for what God is doing in the world!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“My choices, including those related to the day-to-day aspects of life, like the use of a modest car, are related to a spiritual discernment that responds to a need that arises from looking at things, at people and from reading the signs of the times. Discernment in the Lord guides me in my way of governing.” – Pope Francis I

PRAYER

Lord, open my eyes to the signs of the times and fill me with the urgency to act upon them. Amen.

By Our Love

Read Jeremiah 2:12-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act–they will be blessed in their doing.” (James 1:23-25)

CrackedLandAs a child growing up in the Christian church, I was always taught that Christianity was about love.  One of the first hymns a child learns in the church is “Jesus Loves Me,” and there other hymns that children learn that promote that image of a loving God and a loving Church. Hymns like “Jesus Loves the Little Children” making lasting impressions on the young child about God’s character, as well as the character of the God-loving church.

And,honestly, that image doesn’t get lost among adult hymns either. One such hymn that comes to mind is the hymn, “They Will Know We Are Christian by Our Love.” In that hymn, Carol Arends writes, “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord and we pray that all unity will one day be restored. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. They will know we are Christians by our love.”

The hymn goes on to speak about Christians working side-by-side and walking with each other hand-in-hand. These are the images of Christians that we put forward to our children, to each other, and to the world at large. Yet, is that how we, as Christians, truly live? Do we treat each other with dignity and lay down our pride? Do we see the value in each person we come across and hold them in the same regard as we hold ourselves? Do we accept each other with the love of God in our hearts, or do we judge others without giving God a chance to shine through?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. If we are claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ and yet behave in a way that is contrary to the character of Christ, we do far more than just push people away from us; rather, we end up pushing people further away from Christ. People looking in at the church often find themselves saying, “I don’t want any part of that.” In the end, instead of being vessels for God’s hope, healing and wholeness, we end up being like cracked cisterns who have abandoned the fountain of Living Water.

Throughout Scripture, God has invited people into a deeper relationship with God through living in a right relationship with each other. The latter part is essential to the former. We cannot be in right relationship with God, we cannot be drinking from the fountain of Living Water, if we are not loving others as God has first loved us. That is why Jesus said that loving thy neighbor (including your enemies) as oneself is likened to loving God with all of our beings.

Today’s challenge is to look openly and honestly at yourself. Are you living in a way that is pleasing to God or in a way that pushes others further from God. Are you bearing the Christian spirit that you claim to possess? Of course, none of us are perfect and none of us will perfectly live into the image of Christ. We all, myself included, have room to grow; however, until we are honest with ourselves and open to the transformative work of the Holy Spirit, we will always stop short of growing. God wishes for you, for me and for all of humanity to continue to grow into reflectors of God’s love. No doubt, by the grace of God, we will be brought from where we are to where God wants us to be! Remember, they will know we are Christian by our love!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Actions speak louder than words.

PRAYER

Lord, continue to work in me, continue to mold me, and continue to bring me from where I am to where you want me to be. Amen.

 

Heart-Healthy

Read Matthew 15:1-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.” (Matthew 12:35)

Heart Healthy logoSince starting the 60 day juice fast a year and almost nine months ago, and since becoming vegan, I have learned a lot about nutrition. At three hundred six pounds with type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, I was certainly heading on a one way ticket to a life cut short by my lifestyle. It was hard for me to see it prior to making the change; however, once that change was made, there could be no doubt that my old lifestyle was literally killing me.

Any doctor, nurse or medical worker will tell you that the number one killer in America is heart disease. More people die from heart attacks, strokes and other heart related diseases than anything else. Why is this? Many people will try and say that their genes are to blame. For some people, that may be the case; however, with the obesity and heart disease rates we have in this country, there can be no doubt that genetics cannot be culprit as much as what we eat is.

With diets high on cholesterol, saturated oils, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats), and other heart-stopping stuff, it’s no wonder people’s hearts are seizing. And who can live without their heart? People are literally eating themselves to death and, even though most people are aware of this, they continue to keep their heart-killing lifestyles.

While I am talking about our physical hearts, the same is true with our spiritual hearts. People know that fear, bitterness, anger, hatred, dissension, gossip, jealousy, and other such things are bad for one’s soul. There can be no question that such things lead people down a dark and destructive path. There can be no doubt that such things eventually seize one’s “heart” and cause a spiritual death to occur.

Yet, despite most people knowing that living a life of hatred, bitterness and anger leads to spiritual disease, many people still choose to not change their spiritual lifestyles. Many choose to harbor grudges, live in anger, spend their days gossiping and become bitter to their core. The more that people continue to sow those seeds of sin, the more their spiritual arteries get clogged and begin to deteriorate.

This is why Jesus warned his disciples to watch what came from one’s “heart.” A healthy heart will not hold onto anger nor will it spew hatred, bitterness, dissension, gossip, jealousy or any other negative thing. A healthy heart will only produce love, kindness, gentleness, compassion, generosity, patience, and self-control. An unhealthy heart will get clogged with evil things to the point of bursting; a healthy heart will remain free and love will flow through it with ease.

The challenge for us today is to change our lifestyle and choose to live in a heart-healthy manner. Don’t let your heart be consumed with spiritual disease; rather, let you heart be a vessel that pumps the warmth of love throughout your soul. If you change your lifestyle and start allowing yourself to be fed by the Holy Spirit, you will find that you will become a new person. You will be healthy, joyful and willing to share you joy with others. Be heart-healthy and shine with God’s love!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” – Denis Waitley

PRAYER

Lord, you have given me the strength and the direction to change from who I am to who you want me to be. I thank you for your continued guidance. Amen.

Mountain Mover

Read Matthew 1:1-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

MountainMoverBoth of my children have always been smart and studious, always striving to do well in their studies at school. They have each done very well in their grades and my oldest has even won the Presidential Award for Academic Achievement.  At the end of this last school year, my oldest daughter was told that her teachers were recommending her for honors classes for the next school year.

 One of the honors classes she is going to be taking this year is Literature. She has always been an avid reader, and reads countless books. One of the requirements for eighth grade honors Literature is for them to read three books during the summer, two of which are classics: “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens and “Call of the Wild” by Jack London. For those who have read those books, they know that is a pretty high bar for an eighth grader.

 Just the other night, my daughter was stressing out. She had read up through chapter 20 in the book, and she felt that she just wasn’t understanding this book.  “I am not sure it is really making sense Dad,” she confided in me. “I have to read this book and be able to answer questions about it, and I just don’t think I am going to be able to.” Clearly, she was distressed about the work that lay before her.

 We’ve all been there, we’ve all had moments that we felt we just weren’t up to the challenge. We’ve all been overwhelmed by the circumstances and challenges that faced us and have felt at a loss for just how we were going to survive. Perhaps even some of us have had negative attitudes toward those challenges. Perhaps we have told ourselves that we couldn’t possibly rise up to them, let alone above them; of course, such an attitude almost always becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 All we need to do is recognize and embrace our faith. Jesus taught his disciples that if we had faith the size of the tiniest of seeds we could move mountains. There is nothing that God cannot get us through. There isn’t any fear, doubt, obstacle, or task that is too large for God to handle. All we need to is to have faith that God would not allow us to be crushed by this world or it’s circumstances. All we need is a little faith in God’s ability to work through our circumstances.

 This is not to say that God CAUSES our circumstances. Life happens as it does, and we are constantly being affected by our own choices as well as the choices of others around us.  That’s the reality of living in a community, of living in a world with other people. Yet, God never ceases to be with us, regardless of the challenges before us. God is constantly working for the good of those who love God and are called according to God’s purpose (Romans 8:28).

 So, have a little faith! Pick your chin up and know that you are not alone in your circumstances. Know that you are God’s and that God would never forsake you or fail you. Have faith in God, but also have faith in the abilities God has given you. God is constantly preparing us and equipping us with the abilities and tools to handle the challenges before us.  Have a little faith and be a mountain mover! Know that you are empowered by God’s Holy Spirit to rise up to any challenge that comes your way, no matter how great or small. Remember, all things are possible through Christ who gives us strength!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” – Helen Keller

PRAYER

Lord, open the eyes of my heart so that I may see that through me, you can move the mountains. Amen.

It’s All About Pacing

Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

NikesHave you ever had the opportunity to run a 5k race? Right now, as I write this, I am in preparation for an upcoming 5k race. All summer long, in fact, I have been preparing for this by jogging as much as I can for as long as I can. As I have come to learn, running is all about the pacing.

When I was about 10-12 years old, my dad would take me running all the time. I wasn’t necessarily the biggest fan of jogging; however, I would go out and run with my dad.  He would always tell me to slow down and to pace myself. “You’re not running a race son, you’re just out here to get in shape,” he would encourage me. “Slow down, take it one step at a time…don’t quit now…you’re almost there.” Before long, we were running for a couple of miles.

I remember, at one point, my dad signed us both up for a 5k run in a neighboring town to ours. I may not have finished in first place, or ran a record speed; however, at 10-12 years old, I was conditioned enough to run a 5k without even feeling the need to stop. It is amazing how much one can endure if one just paces him or herself. It’s not a matter about where one places, but about finishing the race.

This summer I took my twelve year old and my nine year old out running with me, just as my Dad did with me when I was their age. At first they wanted to sprint out ahead, but would quickly tire out and have to walk.  I told them to slow down, just like my dad told me all those years ago. Once they listened to me, once they started to pace themselves, they found that they too could finish the run. In the end, my youngest ran a full mile and my oldest ran two full miles. They found out they could go the distance.

The same is true when we look at our faith journey. We often seek out God in order to better our lives in some measurable way. We look for success, for prosperity, for the world to see eye-to-eye with us, and for the world to change at the sound of “amen!” Yet, when these things do not happen the way we envision, when it seems that nothing is working the way we’d hoped, we give up and turn away from our faith.

What we as people of faith need to do is to learn how to pace ourselves. We need to stop trying to sprint off to the finish line and we need start learning to take this journey one step at a time. God has not called us into instantaneous perfection. God has not promised that the road will be short and easy. God has not promised that we will not pour sweat into the paradise that we strive for.

God simply promised that we would not have to run this race alone. That, for each step we take, God’s Holy Spirit will be there with us each step of the way. If you silence yourself for a moment, you will hear God calling out to you, “It’s not a race, my child…you’re just out here getting in shape. Slow down, take it one step at a time. Don’t quit now, you’re almost there.” Remember, that by the grace of God you can and will stay the course and finish the jog; in the end, you will look back at the course and know that God, in and through you, has accomplished much!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” – Marie Curie

PRAYER

Lord, I thank you for being present with me as continue on the journey from where I am to wear you are calling me to be. I trust you to guide me there and leave the timing up to you. Amen.

 

Unanswered Prayers

Read Matthew 6:7-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” (Romans 8:26)

Garth-Brooks - Unanswered PrayersWhile I am not too much of a country music listener, I have always had a liking for Garth Brooks. His flashy, rock-like performances, his charismatic charm and his wild and crazy persona have always captivated me and millions of others.  But beyond all of that, he also happens to be an incredible song writer and has, as a result, befriended and worked with many other worthy songwriters such as Billy Joel.

One of my favorite songs of Garth’s comes from his album, No Fences. On that album is a song called, “Unanswered Prayers.” The song tells the story of a man who goes to his old high school to watch a football game.  While at the game he runs into a woman whom he had a fling with back when he was a teenager, which triggers a flood of emotions and memories.  I am sure he remembered the good times he had with her, all of the things they used to do together, how she smelled after putting on her perfume, or how she looked on their first date. I am sure he was flooded those memories and more.

He also recollects how he used to pray to God, begging him to keep them together. Perhaps he prayed for the relationship to go further than it had. We can certainly use our imagination for the things he was praying for; yet, there he was, years later at a football game with a different woman…his wife. In looking at his old fling, and looking back at his wife, he realized that the woman he had prayed for all of those years ago, didn’t turn out to be who he had thought she was; whereas, his wife was everything he ever needed and/or wanted in a loving partner.

Brooks sings, “Sometimes I thank God, for unanswered prayers. Remember when your talking to the man upstairs, that just because he may not answer doesn’t mean he don’t care. Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” I can relate with these words. There are many times I prayed for things to happen one way or the other; however, looking back on those things that I wanted, I am glad that they never happened. People pray to win the lottery, yet when they do their lives are often ruined by the sudden rush of wealth. People often pray to be come famous only to find themselves more empty than they were before the world knew them. We often strive and pray for what we want; yet, what we want is seldom what we truly need.

And there is one more point to make regarding “unanswered prayers.” God is not some magic genie in the sky that appears to bestow three wishes to us every time we rub the lamp.  God is not some catchall spiritual inbox for every request YOU need to make. God is the source of all of our lives. God is the very breath we breath and the very life we feel coursing through our veins. God is both in us and transcends us and it is this God who calls us to live in LOVE…to live in the very essence of GOD. Thus, if our prayers are self-centered and all about US, then chances are those prayers will remain unanswered.

Rather than pretending that we know what we need and what is best for us, rather than seeking our way, our truth and our life, let us turn to our Creator, our Redeemer and our Sustainer and remember that God will provide exactly what we need. Knowing this we will not need to ramble on and on only to find our prayers go unanswered; rather, our prayer will simply be: “Lord, let your will be done in me and on earth as it is in heaven. Use me in the way that you will.” If that is your prayer, I guarantee you it will NOT go unanswered!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.” – Søren Kierkegaard

PRAYER
Lord, let your will be done in me and on earth as it is in heaven. Use me in the way that you will. Amen.

A Time to Zip

Read John 17

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.” (Psalms 52:8)

zip-liningWhile I was not a huge fan of high school while I was in it, there are some things that stand out in my mind that I look back on and cherish as valuable learning experiences. One of the things I remember was that our high school had this outdoors obstacle course that had all sorts of stuff set up in it, including an awesome and adrenaline pumping zip line. This was one of those things that people either loved or hated.

One of the teachers would climb up to the zip line first, and then invite students, one at a time, to climb up to where he was. Before climbing, a teacher at the bottom would place the student in a harness that had a cable attached to it. The one end of the cable was attached to the student, it then traveled up to a pulley and back down to the teacher on the ground who would act as the counter weight. This was to ensure that if the student fell she or he would dangle and slowly be lowered down to safety.

Both teachers would ensure the students that it was perfectly safe so long as they obeyed the safety rules. All the student had to do was trust the teacher, climb the pole. Once he/she got up to the platform, they would be harnessed into the zip line and off he or she could go. All that was required, both to climb up the pole and to zip down the line, was a little trust. one had to trust that the teacher was harnessing them up right and they had to trust that, should one slip and begin to fall, the teacher to whom one is harnessed would be able to counter the weight and lower the student safely back to the ground.

There were some students that didn’t blink an eye before putting their trust in the teachers. They were the ones who climbed up to the top and had the thrill of zipping down that line.  Others, myself included, were a little more cynical about the teacher’s ability to “save” me. Many of us never even made it up the pole at all; rather, we sat there looking up…only imagining who awesome that zip line might be. I, and others like me, simply could not get ourselves to trust.

This is a great metaphor for the church. Christ has called us to place our trust in him. What’s more, Christ has also asked us to place trust in each other. On the surface, that sounds easy enough, right? In reality, this is not an easy thing for most people. Most of us Christians find ourselves way too cynical to place our trust in each other. We can talk all day long about trusting Jesus, but we cannot bring ourselves to trust others in our church and/or fellowship.

In one sense, it is understandable that we have such a hard time in trusting each other. There is great risk associated. We may see our vision of the fading into the shape of someone else’s vision. We may place our trust in the wrong people, only to find out that we’ve been used and taken advantage of. There are lots of things that can go wrong with placing our trust in each other.

Yet, Jesus took that risk in his own life and calls us to do the same. We are to place our trust in God, to place our trust in God’s church (in and through whom the Holy Spirit works), and to be trustworthy to those who are trusting us.  Not one of us is perfect and sometimes our trust will be broken and/or we will break others trust; however, if we are ever to move forward, if we are ever to take the leap of faith and zip down the line, if we are ever to move beyond the paralysis of our cynicism and our fears, we will have to place our trust in God and in each other. Even when people fail us, God never will. So, what do you have to lose?

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Who trusts in God’s unchanging love, builds on the rock that naught can move.” – Georg Neumark

PRAYER

Lord, guide me to be more trusting of you and of your church. You have not just called me but have called others. Help me to work with them and to trust them so that your work may be done here in my community. Amen.